Town Board approves time limit for ZBA variances


Southold Town’s zoning variances now have an expiration date.

The Town Board approved a new law Tuesday night that sets limits on the duration of variances granted by the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals. 

Under the new law, applicants who receive a variance for construction work would have no more than six years to complete the work until the variance expires.

After three years, applicants who received a variance can apply for up to three one-year extensions. After the third one-year extension runs out, the applicant would need to start the process over and get a new variance.

The variance section of the town’s zoning ordinance, which was adopted in April 1957, had allowed variances to last in perpetuity with the land and had never been amended. Southold was the first East End town to approve zoning laws.

Only board member Jim Dinizio voted against the change to the zoning law at the board’s meeting Tuesday night, saying it “gives too much discretion to the zoning board.”

Mr. Dinizio had expressed his opposition to the amendment at a work session earlier that morning.

“I disagree with it altogether,” he said, adding that he didn’t agree with a future ZBA having the discretion to deny an extension on a variance approved by a prior board. “I don’t like the idea of government getting a second bite at the apple.”

Supervisor Scott Russell disagreed, arguing that the law, as previously written, made it so a prior ZBA can tie the hands of a future ZBA.

Town board members had also said that previously granted variances may become obsolete due to changes in the community over the years.

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With Grant Parpan